JCF wasting $3m annually on police horses - Shields
At least one security expert believes that the more than three million dollars being spent each year to tend to the 15 gelding horses in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Mounted Troop Division is a waste of resources.
The annual expenses incurred to tend to the animals cover grass and grains ($2,400,000), supplements ($150,000), other items for their maintenance, such as shampoo, grooming brush, et al ($100,000), and veterinary care (cost vary, based on need).
The more than $3 million to care for the horses represents a mere .0051 per cent of the Ministry of National Security's $59 billion budget for the current financial year, but former Deputy Superintendent of Police Mark Shields believes this money could be spent on something of far greater importance to the JCF.
VALUE FOR MONEY
"Considering the overall size of the JCF annual budget, $3 million is not a great deal of money. The question, however, is whether having a mounted troop division offers good value for money," Shields shared with The Sunday Gleaner.
"At a time when the JCF is being accused of wasting a billion dollars a year, it is critical that they ask the questions and prove their business case for the continuation of the mounted troop."
Shields, who served for five years in the JCF as a deputy commissioner of police, is calling for an objective look at whether the mounted troop division is efficient, effective and makes good economic sense.
"If the answer is not yes to those questions, then somebody has to make the difficult decision and say goodbye to the mounted branch and spend that three million dollars on something that would be of far more priority to the Jamaica Constabulary Force," he said.
The JCF, however, is adamant that the money is well spent, with 10 mounted patrols deployed on average weekly, each consisting of at least two police officers atop their respective horse.
In addition to patrols, a spokesperson for the division contends that the horses are an extremely useful resource in crowd control. The animals are also used in ceremonial duties such as the governor general's escort at the state opening of Parliament and funeral escorts for deceased dignitaries. The mounted troop division also participates in exhibitions and display selections in various communities and schools.
Shields, who prior to moving to Jamaica served for 28 years as a British law-enforcement officer, including in London, which has a strong mounted branch, does not believe there is sufficient need for a mounted troop division locally.
"In some policing areas such as London, police horses can be a highly effective operational tool in public order situations. For example, just six highly trained police horses can keep 35,000 rival football fans apart at a typical English Premiership football game," said Shields, who now runs a private security firm in Jamaica.
"In Jamaica, do we have sufficiently large public order events or ceremonial processions to justify the cost, or could the money be spent on scene-of-crime equipment, for example?"
He further pointed out that Humberside Police in north England took the decision to disband the mounted branch in March 2014, which costs £500,000 per year to maintain, and will now generate savings of £2 million over four years.
Shields also questioned the justification for five deputy commissioners and 15 assistant commissioners within the JCF. He believes a reduction of senior officers in line with the recommendations of the 2007 JCF Strategic Review would prove very cost-effective.